Everything and the kitchen sink? Packing your hospital bag.

Pregnant mom packing for hospital
What do I NEED to bring to the hospital?

You’ve probably pondered this exact question many times the closer you get to your due month. You’re getting great prenatal care, you’ve decked out the nursery in the perfect theme. You’ve attended your childbirth education classes (right?), you’ve installed the car seat. You’re prepared in every way – and yet the hospital bag still stymies even the most well-read first time parents. What do you really need to bring?

The answer is – “It varies.” Clear as mud right? The truth is, what you choose to bring with you to a hospital birth can differ as widely as the personalities of those becoming parents to begin with. What could be a must-have item for one mom, may make absolutely no sense to another. So what to do, right?

First, assess what your goals are for this birth experience. Do you know you’ll be having a scheduled induction or cesarean? Are you planning an unmedicated birth? Are you leaving an epidural on the table? Once you’ve processed what your hopes are for this birth, you will better be able to plan what you’ll want to bring to make that a reality. Limit yourself to items you can comfortably fit into an overnight bag.

After supporting thousands of Baltimore parents over the last decade, we’ve narrowed down our favorite must-haves for the hospital bag – plus a few things to leave at home!

  • Your own clothes. Dress how you want to feel in labor. You are not required to wear a hospital gown if you don’t want to. So wear what you want! Make sure to have extra clothes on hand for any messes, as well as a going home outfit in a comfortable style and size. You will still be about the size you were at 20-24 weeks pregnant when heading home. A robe you won’t mind ditching if it gets stained is a welcome help and flip flops for shower use are always a great idea!
  • A phone charging cord and/or charge bank. We’ve noticed often there aren’t outlets in hospitals within easy reach of your bed, so having an extra-long charging cord or a portable cord bank is a great idea. You’ll want your phone charged up to take family photos and videos, update your loved ones, or even listen to your favorite playlists in labor.
  • Toiletries. Yes, the hospital may provide some. There’s nothing like having your own toothbrush and the comforting scent of your own bath products right? You will likely have the opportunity to shower at some point before discharge and having your own things along can make this a really refreshing experience. Don’t forget a hairbrush and if needed, a styling agent and some cosmetics. Again, this is YOUR birth- if you don’t want makeup, don’t wear it. Some families feel more confident to receive guests and have pictures taken if they are able to do a light touch up now and then.
  • Hair ties or headbands. There’s nothing quite like trying to focus during contractions and being distracted by hair you can’t keep out of your face!
  • Chapstick and mints. Labor means lots of intense breathing, and lots of intense breathing can mean cracked lips and bad breath – for you OR your birth partner.
  • Snacks. All area hospitals and providers have different policies on eating and drinking in labor, but one thing is certain. You’ll want something to eat as soon as you feel up to it after delivery! So bring those snacks. While you may not want a pastrami sandwich smelling up your delivery room, having a variety of small treats can be great. Granola bars, fruit cups, honey sticks, fruit leather, crackers, etc. An electrolyte beverage like coconut water is also a great idea! These can tide you over until you can order a real meal from the kitchen or have someone bring one to you.
  • A swim top for you and suit or trunks for birthing partner. If you plan to labor in water at any point, these are a must.
  • Massage oil. We recommend something unscented. Smells you love now may be unappealing when you’re in labor.
  • A picture from home. If you have a meaningful vacation or nature picture, you might want to bring this along as a point of focus and to make the room more your own.
  • A strand of Christmas lights or some battery candles. Dim, dark rooms are great for labor but can make it difficult to navigate around, such as to and from the bathroom. A few battery candles or a strand of lights hung behind your bed or near the bathroom can fix this and create a great atmosphere!
  • Comfort tools. If you’ve taken our Comfort & Communication class, you probably already have some great ideas! If you’ve got a favorite massage roller, etc, toss it in!
  • Eye mask & ear plugs. It can be hard to drown out the sounds of a busy hospital when trying to rest or focus.
  • A going home outfit (or two!). Especially if you’re unsure of baby’s size, consider two options – a newborn and a 0-3m. 
  • A car seat to take baby home in. Be sure to have your car seat securely installed by 37 weeks.
  • Your skinny jeans. It’s all about comfort right now, we promise!
  • Advanced hair styling tools.  Keep it simple and don’t worry about the flat irons and curlers for a couple days.
  • Your breast pump. If you need a pump for the limited time you’re in the hospital, the lactation staff will be able to provide you with a hospital grade pump.
  • Jewelry & valuables. It’s better to leave these treasures at home than find you need to take them off for one reason or another and worrying about theft or loss.

In the end, don’t cause yourself undue emotional stress over making sure you have everything. You already HAVE what your baby needs – YOU! Everything else is replaceable or able to be snagged at a local store without much trouble.

Still need more advice? Take one of our fantastic childbirth education classes where we cover this topic (and so many others!) in great detail, or schedule a private, one-on-one consultation with one of our pregnancy & newborn experts.